Stanford University Home

Stanford News Archive

Stanford Report, February 23, 2000

Cardinal Chronicle

NOBODY SHOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN Sweet Hall has a substantial mouse population -- after all, it's one of the buildings housing Information Technology Systems and Services' computer cluster and related equipment. But mice of the rodent variety recently nibbled through the wiring in the building and set off temperature fluctuations that caused discomfort and bewilderment to human inhabitants of the three floors occupied by ITSS and other departments. Pest abatement, carpenter shop and electric shop crews were dispatched to capture the voracious troublemakers, tidy up the ceiling and repair the wires. But as of last week, climate conditions were on the "chilly" side, said SANDRA SENTI, director of ITSS's Distributed Computing Group. Sweet Hall occupants were reminded to not leave food or dirty dishes in offices, sinks or shelves in an effort to be inhospitable to the ubiquitous critters.

AND WHILE SOME MIGHT SAY THAT THERE'S A lot of hot air blowing around campus, OLIVER ZAVODA is probably the only one blowing glass. For nearly a decade Zavoda has been the scientific glass blower for Stanford, a role that requires that he fashion specialty glass apparatus not available on the open market. He looks out at the world through didymium lenses framed by wire rims -- out of necessity. "Plastic rims get hot and bend out of shape," he says. Some of his creations bring to mind the pig-in-a-python image, since they bulge this way and that. The Hungarian-born Zavoda has plied his trade for 46 of his 63 years and stayed in the loop of technological breakthroughs. In the 1970s, his Pinole-based company, O.Z. Glass Co., made furnace tubes used for semiconductor manufacturing. He's on campus Tuesday afternoons in the Swain Library of chemistry and chemical engineering to deliver and pick up assignments. Zavoda covers a lot of ground -- he's also on the staff of San Francisco State University. For nearly four decades he's been a member of the American Glass Blowers Association, where up until about 20 years ago most of his colleagues "spoke English with a foreign accent" -- so dominant was the presence of Europeans in the trade. And while his dream of being a chemist fell by the wayside because he couldn't get into a chemical engineering program in the competitive schools of his native land, he's put in his time in the halls of higher learning. Brigham Young University and the University of Alberta have been among his stops.

Lisa Trei is currently on leave. Write to the Cardinal Chronicle at, or mail code 2245.